Lighthouses have long captured seafarers’ imagination as well as warned them away from dangerous coasts. Here is a sampling of ten historic fun-to-visit lights.
1. Grand Turk Lighthouse, Turks & Caicos
Built in 1852, the 60-foot (18m) tall light is one of the island’s most famous landmarks and is the only lighthouse in the country. Located overlooking North Creek, a vantage point great for whale-watching in February and March, it was constructed to warn vessels about the shallow reef. Today, the light is electrified. The Turks & Caicos National Museum on Front Street in Grand Turk has several relics from the old light on display.
2. Cayman Brac Lighthouse, Cayman Islands Bird-watchers love this hike to the light because there are cute boobies everywhere.The cliffs here are a favorite spot for this seabird and its family of white fluffy little ones. The well-marked trail is located off Major Donald Drive and the light is located high atop a bluff. There are in reality two lighthouses here. One, which was built in the 1930s, and a newer one. Both are basic, rather than architectural marvels, but the view from this 140-foot (42.5m) elevation (the highest on the island) is definitely worth seeing.
3. Negril Lighthouse, Jamaica
This 100-foot tall, 1894-built, white-painted concrete tower topped by a lantern with wrap-around gallery looks like a stereotypical lighthouse from the outside. However, unlike many other lighthouses in the Caribbean, it’s possible to go inside, climb the 103 steps and find relics of the old-days as well as a spectacular view from the island’s westernmost tip.
4. Faro a Colon, Dominican Republic
More than a lighthouse, this massive majestic monument commemorates Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus and also holds his mortal remains in the mausoleum beneath. The light, completed in 1992 after many years and in time for Columbus’ 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas, is a 680-foot structure that looks like a Mayan temple. Inside, there’s a museum with artifacts and artwork. Outside, the grounds make for a beautiful stroll.
5. Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
No matter how you look at it, from the sea or shore, the Los Morrillos Light located on the island’s southwest coast is pretty dramatic. The 1882-built light, which today continues to help guide passing vessels from the Atlantic Ocean’s rough Mona Passage to the calmer Caribbean Sea, is fronted by 200-foot-plus limestone cliffs. Equally, the view from the grounds outside this gray-painted, white trimmed lighthouse is nothing but a vast expanse of ocean.
6. Ham’s Bluff, St. Croix, USVI This lighthouse, constructed in 1913 and first lit in 1915 by the Danes who formerly owned the island, is now abandoned. The beacon has been relocated to a tower nearby. However, it’s a great 30- to 45-minute hike through the forest to the old light. The reward is a fantastic view from nearly 400 feet above sea level of St. Croix’s northwestern shore and St. Thomas some 40 miles beyond. The St. Croix Hiking Association occasionally leads guided hikes here.
7. Needham’s Point Lighthouse, Barbados
It’s not hard to find this 1855-constructed light because it sits right in front of the Hilton Barbados Resort, located to the south of Carlisle Bay and a short distance from the Barbados Yacht Club. Different from the other three historic lights on the island, Needham’s didn’t rotate and its split red and green lights signaled to sailors whether they were approaching the island to port or starboard. The light is inactive today, but you can enjoy its view while dining at the Hilton’s Lighthouse Terrace Restaurant.
8. Fort King George Lighthouse, Tobago
Enjoy a step back into time and history at this light, located in a heritage park. Built in 1842, the round lantern and gallery sits atop a cylindrical tower above a one-story keeper’s quarters with a bright red painted roof. The views out over the island’s capitol city of Scarborough are breathtaking. The light sits on the grounds of an 18th century military complex named after England’s King George III. The Tobago History Museum is located adjacent to the light.
9. Klein Curaçao Lighthouse, Curaçao
The only way to travel to Klein Curaçao, a small island 15 miles off the main island’s southeast shores, is by boat. Here, one of the sites to see is the 66-foot tall light. The LED-powered light is still in use today and the many shipwrecks around Klein Curaçao is the reason why. The redbrick keeper’s residences below the white masonry tower, however, are in disrepair. The light is a majestic sight among the barren scrub landscape of this uninhabited island.
10. California Lighthouse, Aruba
Located to the northwest of the island, this 1910-built and 2016-renovated light is named for the steamship California, which sunk offshore in the late 1800s. The view here is a spectacular 360-degree panoramic of sea and shore. While the terrain looks somewhat desolate, with lots of rocks and a herd of wild goats, signs of civilization nearby include the La Trattoria el Faro Blanco Restaurant and the Tierra del Sol Resort, Spa & Country Club with its grassy green golf course.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.